As a I move further into my adult life, and am making “bigger” moves, it occurs to me that I have never had a clear picture of who I look up to. I have never even articulated or seen the one person that I most revere or emulate.
Of course I have seen bits and pieces, namely in my parents. They are incredibly smart, industrious, practical, successful, and, most importantly, generous and kind people.
The reality of being an immigrant family in the 70s is that we were distanced from our extended family. I never grew up with my grandparents; I only got to know 2 of them a little bit and mostly right before they died. The aunties and uncles I knew growing up were not ‘blood’ family, but dear family nonetheless. They were also immigrated and distanced like us in blue AirMail, pre-What’s App family life.
I don’t know when I knew that I was a different person than my lineage, sex, and family history would have me be. But I remember having a realization, around 13 years old, that if I was going to be ‘me,’ I was going to have to invent that. While my teachers and parents were clearly fantastic humans and role models, they did things the right way, as did my aunties and uncles. And I knew I wasn’t meant for that.
Where was I going to find a mouthy, woman, activist/advocate, who also understood what it meant to be unliked? Maybe even to be unloved?
Some kids wanted to emulate Michael Jordan. The closest I found was Noam Chomsky. Though he sure as heck isn’t a brown woman, and most likely had a much wider berth in saying unpopular things!
Years later I learned of an ‘aunt’ that I had (wife of my mom’s cousin). I got to know her very briefly after our families reconnected, and then unfortunately she passed away 2 years later. What I learned about her is that she was an activist/advocate social worker who got her roots in Chicago. It sounded like she was pretty badass.
Where the heck was she when I needed a role model?!! Of course my mind rattled with all of the possibilities of her mentorship, what it could have meant to have known someone who picked a less lucrative and ‘weird’ career path, and of having been just a little more normal as a result.
When I think about my little inner self, and hopefully compel you to think about yours, how could knowing someone ‘like you’ in the world to emulate have changed you?
And if you never got to know that person, well, maybe you can be that person for someone else. Someone who is looking for your unique brand of doing shit your own way. Someone you haven’t met. Including yourself 😉